Lately I have not been getting enough sleep, which is worrisome because sleep deprivation leaves your body in a state of unhealthy stress. So I re-visited those things that promote quality sleep and soon got back into a proper routine. Quality sleep is critical to maintaining good health and performing optimally in our daily activities
A lack of sleep is associated with impaired learning, driving and work performance, faster aging of the brain and body, overeating, obesity, elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol and increased risk of diabetes and hypertension.
There is also evidence that poor sleep can impair your immune system and increase inflammation in your body. When you get enough sleep you can shorten the duration of a cold or other such illnesses and increase the number of cells that naturally kill mutant or deviant ones. Darkness, which is one of the things needed to get good sleep, produces the hormone melatonin, and melatonin is an antioxidant and inhibitor of cancer cell growth.
Let’s face it, a lack of sleep affects our physical appearance and emotional state. Our brain works best when well rested. It keeps us more alert and energized, and sleep improves our memory too.
But how much sleep is needed varies from person to person. The rule of thumb is 7-9 hours. The best way to tell if you have gotten enough sleep is determined by your alarm clock. If you need one to wake up daily, you probably are not getting enough sleep.
What are the strategies to getting a better night’s sleep?
- Minimize your use of a television, smart phone, tablet or laptop at night, and by all means do not go to sleep while using such devices. All of them emit light, typically blue in color, which suppresses melatonin production, so using them at or close to bedtime is disruptive. This is what caused my recent problem. I love to research things, read blogs and return less urgent emails at night after dinner. Now, instead of using such devices, I’ve gone back to reading a book at night. NOTE: I’ve heard you can get various apps that turn the blue light to yellow, but that hasn’t worked for me.
- Cut off lights. The natural rhythm of light and dark keep us alert during the day and promotes sleep at night by shifting how much melatonin our bodies produce. Clocks, phones, night and outside lights can disrupt this natural rhythm. And did you know that light exposure before bed can increase your risk of cancer? Any exposure to light before bed or during your sleep reduces the depth and quality of sleep. Even a low-level light through closed eyelids can reduce melatonin production. A sleep mask makes a lot of sense if you are bothered by excess light, although I’ve yet to use mine.
- Maintain a regular schedule of going to bed and waking up. Once you get into a good routine, you’ll no longer need an alarm clock. By waking naturally, you allow your body to go through its final sleep cycle, where the hormones shift, melatonin decreases and cortisol increases so you become alert.
- Your body temperature should drop naturally at night so make sure you keep your bedroom cool. Ideal sleep temperature is 68 degrees. By lowering the thermostat, avoiding alcohol and caffeine and minimizing noise, you give your body the best chance of a good night’s sleep.
- No surprise here but eating right and exercising are also important for sleep. One of the many benefits of exercise is it helps to physically tire your body so you are ready to get a good night’s sleep. Also, remember to eat your vegetables daily. Otherwise, your sleep may suffer.
I continue to read more and more about the side effects of the various prescription sleep aids on the market today. Relying on a sleep medication generally isn’t the best long-term solution for insomnia. Medications can mask an underlying problem that needs treatment, and they have side effects.
For example, some people who take Zolpidem (Ambien) or similar medications, such as Eszopiclone (Lunesta), do things while asleep that they don’t remember — such as driving, sleepwalking and preparing and eating food. Because you’re not awake, these obviously are dangerous behaviors.
Also, after taking sleep drugs, the Food and Drug Administration recommends that you avoid driving or doing activities that require full mental alertness the next day. This is especially important if you take extended-release varieties.
Sleep medications can be useful in the short term but don’t make them a habit. The best approach is to address whatever is causing your sleep problems in the first place. Remedies include many of the things I have talked about in this blog. In addition, counseling for anxiety or using stress-reduction techniques, such as meditation, can be helpful.
Addictions are ubiquitous. They’re everywhere. How many drugs have you ingested today? Aspirin? Aleve? Ambien? Lipitor? Wellbutrin?
What happens when you don’t take your drugs? Dizzy? Achy? Nervous? Irritable? Sleepless?
Are you hooked on cigarettes? Alcohol? Gambling? Sex?
Anything you do in excess is addictive. It’s a condition that typically starts out pleasurable but eventually becomes compulsive and interferes with responsibilities. Users may not be aware that their behavior is out of control and causing problems for themselves and others.
Addictions can be physical — a state in which the body adapts to the presence of a drug so that drug no longer has the same effect, otherwise known as a tolerance. Another form of physical addiction is overreaction by the brain to drugs. Alcoholism and cigarettes immediately come to mind. Some are more mental, which can lead to physical problems.
In fact you may be addicted to what you are doing right now. Abuse of the Internet and social media is rampant. People spend enormous amounts of time and energy on line. This becomes extremely problematical when the user’s ego is involved. Victims want to present themselves only in a good light, so much so that when a lousy photo or comment is made among “friends,” they become entrapped in an extremely disappointing virtual world.
Perhaps even worse are those who undergo withdrawal symptoms when they can’t get on line. This is called “disconnect anxiety.” They become tense, irritable, isolated, disorientated, angry etc. As more and more social media outlets are made available, the more disconnected the sufferer feels.
Are you addicted to anything? Do you need help? If so, tell your doctor about it. Help is available. All you have to do is ask.
By Mike Daley
Many office dwellers who work in front of computers for extended periods of time know there are unintended health consequences like increased risk for obesity and cardiovascular disease that come with 40+ hours of sitting each week. However, individuals with computer-oriented jobs often neglect to understand how a constant use of technology can impact eyesight and vision health.
Too much screen time can result in a temporary discomfort known as digital eye strain, which is characterized as the temporary physical eye discomfort felt after two or more hours in front of a screen. Marked by symptoms such as red eye, irritated or dry eyes, blurred vision, eye fatigue, back and neck pain and headaches, digital eye strain isn’t the result of one single issue —several environmental factors can contribute to it, including personal vision health, posture, lighting and personal device use habits.
A new report from The Vision Council finds nearly one-third of adults (30%) spend more than half their waking hours (9+) staring at digital devices and a majority of Americans experience symptoms of digital eye strain as a result.
Faced with hours at the computer, coupled with harsh LED or fluorescent lighting that emit blue light, office environments are increasingly becoming hot spots for digital eye strain. It has been estimated that as many as 70 to 75 percent of computer workers experience eye discomfort from high screen use.
The good news is that our workforce doesn’t have to live with this discomfort and can utilize tools and techniques to protect eyes. Computer eyewear is designed to increase individuals’ field of view, bring mid-distance objects into focus, reduce reflection from indoor and outdoor lighting and absorb blue light.
In addition to computer eyewear, below are some other tips that can help relieve digital eye strain in the office:
- Remember the 20/20/20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break from the screen and look at something 20 feet away.
- Build an optimal workspace to mitigate outside stressors like lighting, screen glare and computer set-up.
- Increase the text size on your devices to better define the content on your screen.
Preventative eye care, like an annual comprehensive eye exam, can help preserve vision and identify other health issues early on in disease progression ensuring lifelong vision health. If you have digital eye strain, your eye care provider can discuss eyewear options or lifestyle changes to protect eyes. By taking action, individuals can enhance their vision when using digital devices.
For better or for worse, digital devices have changed the way we receive and process information. It is important that human resources professionals recognize the toll prolonged use of technology has on vision, employee productivity and health and understand solutions are available to address this emerging health issue in the workplace.